Legal News – July 2014

Company law: Companies House to make data available for free

Companies House has announced that it will make digital data available for businesses and members of the public. It says that as a result, it will be easier for people to research the activities and ownership of companies. The announcement is a step towards improving corporate transparency. The information will be available from the second quarter of 2015. The commitment for free digital data is part of a Public Data Group (PDG) Summer Statement which sets out the activities and planned data releases for Companies House, Land Registry, Met Office and Ordinance Survey. It is estimated that PDG Open Data is worth £900m to the UK economy. Last year (2013-14), customers searching the Companies House website spent £8.7m accessing company information on the register. Access to mapping and weather data via the Met Office and Ordnance Survey may also be valuable to businesses. Companies House has also published its annual report for 2013-2014.

Constitutional law: BIS issues report on balance of competencies in consumer and competition law policy

The Department for Business and Skills has published its report on the balance of competencies between the EU and the UK on consumer law and competition law, following a consultation in 2013. It is one of 32 reports being produced as part of the Balance of Competencies Review and is taking forward the Coalition commitment to examine the balance of competencies between the UK and the EU. The report concludes that the evidence suggests that having EU competence on competition and state aid does further the UK's national interest. On consumer policy, the argument is more nuanced. The balance of opinion is that EU-driven consumer policy is a benefit, primarily because it is a factor in making the Single Market work effectively. However, in this area there are more doubts about the way in which EU legislation is made, including whether it is sufficiently well thought through on inception, or robustly implemented after agreement. There was a sense among stakeholders that with the creation of legislation such as the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and the Consumer Rights Directive, significant new EU action to protect consumers was not necessary. Instead, there should be more emphasis on ensuring that existing rules were enforced and applied correctly across the Single Market to remove remaining distortions and barriers to cross-border commerce.

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